Why is the mysterious disappearance of Dublin teenager Amy Fitzpatrick on the Costa del Sol in 2008 making headlines again?
Because her father and aunt believe the truth can still be found. Christopher Fitzpatrick and Christine Kenny have started an online petition, demanding that the family of anyone who vanishes within the EU should be automatically entitled to a cold case review at one, five and 10-year intervals.
By coincidence, their new initiative is getting under way just a few weeks after the release of Dave Mahon – who is married to Amy’s mother Audrey and served five years in prison for killing her brother Dean.
First of all, who exactly is or was Amy Fitzpatrick?
From Coolock, Amy was 15 at the time she went missing. She had moved to Spain in 2004 with Audrey, Dean and her mother’s new partner Dave Mahon, but never settled there. A troubled teenager, she was often absent from school and her journal made references to sometimes sleeping rough.
“I smell of dogs**t and I haven’t had a shower in two years,” read one entry. “Well, I’m off now to do some more shopping in the bins.”
What were the circumstances of her disappearance?
Amy had been due to visit her father in Dublin on St Stephen’s Day 2007, but the trip fell through and she was extremely upset. She spent New Year’s Day at the house of her best friend Ashley Rose, helping to babysit.
Shortly after 10pm she left there to walk home via a dirt track, which should have taken about 10 minutes. According to her mother, she never arrived.
What are the possible theories?
Many were put forward, but no concrete evidence has ever emerged. Three witnesses claimed that they saw Amy at a local bar later that night in the company of a blonde woman.
Some investigators believe there could be a Dublin gangland connection, with suspicion falling on the hitman Eric ‘Lucky’ Wilson (currently in a Spanish prison for shooting a British criminal dead) and the unnamed friend of a Kinahan cartel bagman.
Recently, it’s been reported that Amy had started visiting the home of a man later jailed for child sex abuse. The one thing we can be fairly sure of is that Amy didn’t run away herself – since she had no money and no passport.
Where do Dave Mahon and Audrey Fitzpatrick fit into this story?
It depends who you believe. As early as 2005, the mother of one of Amy’s schoolfriends contacted the Irish Embassy to warn that the girl might be in danger. Audrey Fitzpatrick has described this woman as “a headcase”.
According to Ashley Rose, Amy hated Dave Mahon and said: “He makes my skin crawl.” Audrey Fitzpatrick insists that on the contrary, “(Amy) had (Dave) wrapped around her finger”.
There’s another glaring contradiction in the evidence, which concerns Amy’s pink Nokia phone. Ashley is certain that Amy had it on the evening in question, but police later found it during a search of her mother’s home.
Audrey Fitzpatrick has said that her side of the family “ended up broke” from conducting its own inquiries. “We spent every last penny going all over Europe ourselves, meeting all sorts from the police, private investigators, the underworld, the IRA… I’m 99pc sure she’s not coming home, but I still have that 1pc.”
What brought about the family’s second major tragedy?
Dave Mahon and Audrey Fitzpatrick eventually moved back to Dublin with Audrey’s other child, Dean. In 2013, a fight broke out over a water bottle which 23-year-old Dean had stolen from Mahon’s bicycle outside the Santry gym they both attended.
This row ended with Dean being stabbed to death, Mahon claimed he “walked into the knife”. At the trial in 2016, Mahon was found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to seven years behind bars.
What’s happened to him since then?
Quite a lot. Shortly after entering prison, Mahon was reportedly assaulted in the shower area and suffered a broken jaw. In 2018 he developed nose and throat cancer, forcing him to undergo an intensive course of chemotherapy.
Mahon finally walked free five weeks ago. Last Monday, however, he was arrested on suspicion of assaulting a pensioner at an apartment in Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim. He was released without charge and a file has been sent to the DPP.
Audrey Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, is showing remarkable forgiveness. She married Mahon shortly before he went to jail and has described him as “my best friend”.
Where does the investigation into Amy’s disappearance stand now?
Frustratingly, that’s far from clear. Under an EU directive and the Irish Victims of Crime Bill 2017, relatives in homicide cases must be kept informed of any important developments – but this doesn’t extend to missing persons because it’s not certain that a crime was committed.
Christopher Fitzpatrick and Christine Kenny say they are getting no information from the Spanish police, which is why they hope a petition will shame someone into action.
Thirteen years on, would a cold case review really have any chance of success?
There’s every reason to hope so. Mysteries such as these can be solved for many reasons, including advances in DNA technology, eye-witnesses no longer being scared to come forward or someone with a guilty conscience owning up.
To take one Irish example, new evidence recently emerged about the disappearance of Kildare teenager Deirdre Jacob in 1998 – and the DPP is considering whether or not to charge convicted rapist Larry Murphy.
“All of these cases… are totally solvable,” the retired detective inspector Pat Marry said last year, calling for every Garda jurisdiction in Ireland to set up a cold case unit. “They just need that shot in the arm.”
Finally, where does the campaign to find out what happened to Amy Fitzpatrick go from here?
Yesterday, Christopher Fitzpatrick and Christine Kenny’s petition passed the 3,000 signatures mark. They hope to reach 5,000 before presenting it to the European Parliament and the Irish government later this year.
“It’s just crazy the way you have to fight for every single thing,” Christine Kenny said last Monday. “ But you just have to keep going… if you start sitting down and putting your head in a deep depression, you may as well forget about it.”